Summarize Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" including examples of symbolism.

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dule05 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem is about the choices me make which influence who we turn out to be and where we eventually end up.

The first stanza introduces the speaker of the poem. He is a traveler who comes to a spot in the woods where two paths diverge and cannot decide which road he should choose. The stanza implies that the speaker feels dejected because he cannot go down both paths at the same time. He ruminates for a long time about the path he should pick. This dilemma is symbolic. This stanza is not just about a literal fork in the road. Instead, it speaks about a moment in life when we find ourselves at a crossroads, aware that what we decide to do next will have quite an impact on our life afterwards.

In the second stanza, the speaker tells us that he made a choice and picked a road which he thought was better because it seemed "grassy and wanted wear." Symbolically speaking, this suggests that he picks a path which many other people would ignore because it seems more challenging. This may signify that our speaker is an individualist, a leader, not a follower.

However, this claim can be refuted because the speaker tells us, in the third stanza, that both paths "that morning equally lay in leaves no step had trodden black." This means that both roads are equally traveled, so there is no such thing as a road less traveled. The speaker then says that he doubts he will ever return to the path he didn't get to examine:

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

In the last stanza, the speaker imagines being an old man who thinks about that moment in the woods when a choice had to be made, and he says he will speak about that moment "with a sigh." This may mean that he will never be able to forget that there was that other path he did not get to try. And he will bend the truth by saying that he took the road less traveled by, even though it is known that both were equally traveled.

The poem is about the inevitability of making choices and what we make of those choices. The speaker wants to believe that the road he takes matters and that it is the one that many others would choose to avoid because it is "less traveled." He may want to be perceived as an individualist, who would rather choose his own way than follow the crowd. We may not believe him, but we can identify with him, because when we get old and when we look back, we want to think we made the most of what life gave us.